China has launched a mobile app 'close contact detector' which tells users if they have been near a person who has been confirmed or suspected of having been infected with coronavirus. The deadly virus has infected over 40,000 people and killed over 1,100 in China.
Chinese news agency Xinhua, which first reported the launch of the app, has not revealed how the app identifies those individuals who have been affected by coronavirus. It's likely China may have used the strength of its mass surveillance to be able to cull data on coronavirus-affected individuals. China is believed to make use of cameras, facial recognition software, and artificial intelligence to gather data on its citizens.
The close contact detector app was developed jointly by the China Electronics Technology Group and Chinese government departments, according to Xinhua. The app also received support from several Chinese government agencies like the National Health Commission, the Ministry of Transport, China Railway and the Civil Aviation Administration of China.
How does the app work?
Users can sign up on the app using QR code through apps like Alipay or WeChat. The registration on the new app can be done with a phone number, name and ID number. However, a user can only use one registered phone number to check the status of up to three ID numbers.
As per the Chinese government, 'close contact' is defined as coming near to, with no effective protection, confirmed, suspected or mild cases of the coronavirus while the person was ill, even if they were showing no symptoms at the time.